How Many Pages Should A Resume Be?

Let me take the time here to quickly address a pet peeve of mine: Your resume can be more than one page.

Trust me.

I don't know why it is, but a certain segment of the population holds fast to the notion that a resume must be one page and one page only. This is simply not true. Of the hundreds of resumes produces in a given week, I would say more than half are 2-pagers. Some are 3-pagers.

I can't tell you the number of times I've seen people try to cram an entire career history onto one page for no good reason. Very often, they're leaving important things out of their career history just because of some arbitrary sense of space.

So, let me say it once and for all: a resume does not have to be one page. There's nothing wrong with a one-page resume, of course. If that's what you've got, then that's what you've got. Students especially, and young professionals in general (those who don't have a lot of experience to speak of) should probably stick to 1-pagers. But if you have the career history to list, then don't sweat going to two pages. Don't even worry if it's one and a half pages... or even 1 page with only a paragraph or two spilling out into the second page. Go ahead and keep that second page. It's better than leaving something off your resume that might be helpful.

So the answer to the question "how many pages should a resume be" is: as many pages as necessary. As many as are required to sell you as a professional. You probably should stick to 1-2 pages... 3 pages on occasion, but never more than that.

Having said that, I should take a moment here to describe a different kind of document that can be many pages indeed: the CV.

A CV (aka, Curriculum Vitae) is what people call resumes in Europe. The formatting is different, as is the information you would provide. If you're looking for a job in Europe, the employer will ask to see your CV. They might not even know what a resume is, because that's very much a North American style document.

A CV is a more detailed, complex document than a traditional resume. Standard practice for a resume is to list your career history, your professional skills and your career accomplishments. And that's mostly it (depending on the career field).

A CV includes all of the above, but goes into far greater detail, outlining each and every thing you have done, down to the individual project, paper or professional association. Whereas North American resumes focus on job descriptions, CVs tend to de-emphasize this part and focus more on listing instead of describing what you've done. A CV puts a much heavier emphasis on educational and academic backgrounds as well as teaching and research experience, publications, presentations, awards, honors, affiliations and the like. A CV can also encompass personal items about yourself that are considered too superfluous to be included in a resume.

In short, a CV is your job history and your life history. A resume tends to focus primarily on your job history. Whereas I just told you that a resume is usually 1-3 pages, in contrast, a CV can run to 5-6 pages easily.

So, CVs are not often used in the US… unless you have a very specific career. If you are an American, chances are you will only ever need to present an American Style resume. The only rare cases that might need a CV: If you're an academic, researcher or scientist. CVs are also sometimes called for in the Higher Education and Legal fields.

We're going to be dealing with your standard, American-Style resume.